At the end of March, the Washington Spirit picked up their first against the Orlando Pride. Tonight, the matchup is the same, but this time the Pride are no longer short-handed due to injuries and national team absences. Alex Morgan is healthy, the national team players (including Marta and the rest of Orlando’s large group of Brazilians) are in, and Washington can’t call on Mallory Pugh to score a game-winner tonight either.
In other words, this might be tough.
Key player: Andi Sullivan
Last time the Pride came to the SoccerPlex the Spirit managed to hold the team to a 2-0 shutout, but tonight looks like a bigger challenge. In Orlando’s past five games, the team scored 13 goals, which is more than the Spirit (10) have all season. One area that the Spirit have struggled with this season is the midfield. This was expected to be a strong suit for Washington given the bevy of talented midfielders the team has, but in both directions they’ve come up shot, particularly since Pugh hurt her knee.
Sullivan hasn’t lived up to the (admittedly high) expectations set for her, and the Spirit have tried something different lately by giving her more of an attacking role. Last week she missed two sitters, but on the bright side she was in the right spot which is a positive development. Taking the next step and turning opportunities into goals could be critical tonight.
Location: Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland SoccerPlex (Boyds, MD)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (4-3-3) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Tori Huster, Rebecca Quinn, Andi Sullivan; Estefania Banini, Ashley Hatch, Francisca Ordega
With Morgan Proffitt and Yanara Aedo waived this week and a stubborn injury list, the Spirit will probably only have six subs available (including two goalkeepers). Compounding matters, Lavelle seemed to have a setback last week, and is listed as questionable. Keep an eye on this situation, as the Spirit could end up signing one of their draft picks or activating Arielle Ship today.
Ali Krieger is questionable because of a right knee sprain and Dani Weatherholt will be absent. Marta reportedly had to fly back to Brazil earlier this week, but should be in uniform and available off the bench. Former Spirit midfielder Christine Nairn is tied for the NWSL assist lead with four.
Referee: Eric Tattersall
Available TV: ESPNews
What are you drinking?: Water. If there’s some drink that will ensure that the thunderstorms pass before kickoff, I’ll take that too.
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